Many years ago, while inspecting a registered private collection in Guatemala (totally registered with the appropriate government institute), I noticed several attractive effigy containers that the owner showed were effigies of guicoy. These Late Classic Maya bowls were quite specifically painted representations of guicoy vegetables. Squash is a common food of the Maya peoples of Guatemala, Belize, Mexico, and adjacent Honduras. Maize, beans, and squash were the traditional foundation of their pre-Hispanic diet.


Guicoy, Cucurbita pepo, Mayan anthropology, Mayan ethnography
Guicoy (güicoy), Maya ceramic art of Peten.

Yes, the Maya ate root crops, tree fruits and nuts, and we are checking on the possibility that parts of the water lily plant were eaten (they were certainly pictured often in Maya art). But "maize, beans, and squash" was clearly a major part of the diet of the Maya farmers of the last several thousand years. The gardens around their houses, as well as their agricultural fields, still today include maize, beans, and squash.

Guicoy, squash, ayote, calabaza, pumpkin.

You can see the diversity of sizes, shapes, and colors of squash on a web site (Switzerland). There is a thesis from the Universidad San Carlos de Guatemala, "Caracterizacion de 20 cultivares de guicoy…", 1981, 111 pages.

There are as many words for these vegetables as there are species and varieties: Guicoy, güicoy, güicoitos, squash, ayote, calabaza, pumpkin.

Ayote (Cucurbita pepo)
Ayote (Cucurbita pepo), photo by Jaime Leonardo, FLAAR Photo Archive.

Squash as head of decapitated rubber ballgame player in Popol Vuh

Squash is mentioned in the Popol Vuh, as the “replacement head” of the decapitated Hero Twin. We will be referencing this ritual use of squash later during 2015.


Squash in Chilam Balam of Yucatan

We have gone through two of the Chilam Balam books to see how much they discuss plants: either edible or sacred. We will be adding documentation from this research later in 2015.


FLAAR Photo Archive of Maya Ethnobotany.

We have a long range project of professional quality photography of the sacred and utilitarian flowers, fruits, nuts, vegetables, and other plants of the Maya past and present. We just wanted to show some of the first results: taken by Guatemalan biologist Mirtha Cano. Two biologists are on the staff of FLAAR Mesoamerica in Guatemala. Both do botany and zoology of tropical Central America.

Guicoy (Güicoy, güicoitos), Maya ceramic art of Peten

Guicoy, squash, zucchin, Mayan anthropology

Guicoy (güicoy), photos by Mirtha Cano, FLAAR Photo Archive.


The pictures to create this QTVR were taken by Jaime Leonardo at La Ruta Maya Conservation Foundation.


Bibliography on squash, pumpkins, ayote, etc of Mayan agriculture

Our bibliography web site, www.maya-art-books,org, will have a bibliography on squash within the coming month.

Most recently updated January 19, 2015, while preparing an article on squash for the Institute of Maya Studies (IMS, Miami Science Museum).
Previously updated May 25, 2010 and October 18, 2009.
First posted January 2008.

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